The ceaseless energy of the perfect Servant is seen, for as soon as He has come out of the synagogue the next needy case is brought before Him.
It is Mark that records that the house into which the Saviour entered belonged to Simon and that his brother Andrew lived with him. This is our first introduction to a home that was to become a place for the Lord to stay when He was in this area of the country. It is called ‘the house’ and was clearly seen as the place that the Lord met with His disciples and discussed matters with them.1 It might not be named as the same house, but there is sufficient evidence to support the fact that it was indeed Simon’s home.
It is Mark too that tells us of the presence of James and John. As the second of the Saviour’s miracles recorded by Mark is about to be performed, Mark tells us of those that witnessed it and can verify its certainty. These events were to be clearly established in the mouth of two or three witnesses.
The person in need was Simon’s mother-in-law. The nature and severity of the condition are clearly reported by all gospel writers. Luke speaks of a great fever and Mark’s words suggest a burning fever that held her in its grip and that had done so for some time. She was now prostrate, her energy gone and her condition seemingly worsening.
In the Saviour’s treatment we see:
There is in this procession from the city to the door of Peter’s home a sad picture of the need that existed in this part of the country. H. V. Morton tells us of the existence of so-called healing springs in the nearby city of Tiberius.3 What a contrast with the One who brings healing and deliverance which no other person or material could do.
Looking at the verses that precede this section and the extent of the activity of the Servant, we might wonder that He should desire to spend such a time in prayer. We would look to recharge the physical with prolonged rest and sleep whereas the Saviour sought the fellowship of heaven.
Luke tells us that the Saviour went into the desert but Mark, alone, tells us it was ‘a solitary place’, v. 35. Luke may well emphasize the inhospitable nature of the scene, but Mark would have us realize the importance of solitude in prayer. He was away from the distraction of a busy scene and able, over the period of the early hours of the morning, to take time in prayer. It was most probably the third watch of the night, still dark, when the Saviour left the house to seek a place for prayer.
This is in keeping with the Lord’s own words to His own. In the Sermon on the Mount, He bid His disciples to seek the place of solitude in prayer, ‘thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret’, Matt. 6. 6. Mark shows us that the Lord is wholly consistent in His own practices and that which He bids others to do.
We might highlight a number of things in relation to the prayer life of the Saviour as it is recorded here.
The Saviour had been in conflict with spiritual forces opposed to His purpose. He had been busy in the service of God. How important, then, that He should spend time in prayer fellowship with the Father and prepare Himself, once more, for the demands of service. The practical application of this is not lost upon Barnhouse, ‘If Jesus in His great power and oneness with God could feel the urgent necessity of communion with the Father, how much more you and I need to go to the Father for the strength that fills our weakness and the knowledge that fills our ignorance’.6
Finding the Saviour was not present in the house, Simon, and others with him, start a search. There was a desire to find the one who had brought such healing and deliverance that they had witnessed for themselves. The blessing that the Saviour had brought distinguished Him as a teacher but, more importantly for the crowds, met their physical needs as none other could. It was these factors that added zeal to their search.
Simon, and perhaps the other disciples, had caught the mood of the crowd. They said to the Saviour, ‘All men seek for thee’, v. 37. The words suggest that, for the disciples, this must dictate the movements of the Saviour. He must move to meet the desires of the crowd. Capernaum must be satisfied! He must capitalize on such popularity.
But the Lord is not guided by popularity or the clamour of the crowd. His purpose is not to fulfil the will of the people but the will of God. Hence, the Lord says, ‘Let us go into the next towns’, v. 38. It is not that Capernaum did not have need but that the need of the other towns was greater. Capernaum should not seek to monopolize the Saviour’s time at the expense of others who were equally deserving.
The Lord also emphasizes the true purpose of His service, ‘that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth’, v. 38. He had not come to heal, although He did that. He had come to preach and this must be the focus of His activity. The miracles that He performed were to authenticate the message rather than to replace it. Thus, what the Saviour said, He did, ‘And He preached in their synagogues’, v. 39. The scope of that preaching? ‘Throughout all Galilee’.